TMCnet Feature
May 06, 2013

How Much Does an Internet Blackout Cost?

When Congress debated passing the SOPA and PIPA bills last year, many websites on the Internet closed their doors for a day to protest what they felt was the overreaching and threatening nature of the bills. The move proved successful – further discourse over SOPA and PIPA was indefinitely postponed – but was there a cost to some very important and large websites denying the Internet their services for a day? How much does an Internet blackout cost?

Limited SOPA Protest

It was enough for two of the biggest online movers, Google and Twitter (News - Alert), to stay open while their peers and competitors symbolically went dark. To be fair, Google did signal its opposition to the SOPA and PIPA bills by blacking out its logo and encouraging users to not support any moves that would 'censor the Internet' – but Google (News - Alert) Search, Gmail and other Google services were all available.

Similarly, Twitter declined to participate in the blackout, even as its chief executive officer tweeted that his company would actively oppose the proposed legislation. Twitter, he said, was a "global business," and closing it to protest "national politics" was "foolish."

A Day without Google

What would be the financial effect of a blackout today? Assuming that Google opposed CISPA, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act – what some people are calling SOPA 2 – by going dark for a day, it could cost the company $86.1 million in lost advertising revenue over just a 24-hour period. This is derived from an estimated 100 billion Google Searches a month.

The Twitter Threat

Similarly, if Twitter decided that CISPA was a bigger threat than SOPA, and suspended operations for a day, it would cost the microblogging company over 300 million Tweets a day from its 200 million users. Like Google, Twitter makes its money from advertising – in Twitter's case, this is done with major corporations like Starbucks, Pepsi and the record labels of popular artists who have hundreds of millions of followers on the service.

Twitter is a privately held company, so estimating how much money it would lose if it went offline for a day is hard. However, as of last year, Twitter was expected to be worth $10 billion. The figure is drawn from Twitter's deep and rich integration with Apple (News - Alert) products and Accuweb VPS Hosting, an incredible market in its own right. All of them would be affected if Twitter decided to take a stand against CISPA and turn its lights out for a day. The economic impact of such a move is difficult even to guess.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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